The Liver - Large and Important

Very vital to various metabolic activities carried out in the body is the liver. It is a meaty organ which
is embedded in the upper right side of the belly, just below the diaphragm. It is a gland that plays important roles such as decomposition of red blood cells, synthesis of plasma protein, production of hormones, regulation of glycogen storage and detoxification. It regulates glycogen storage by releasing glucose into the bloodstream after breaking down glycogen. It also serves as a store for the excess glucose (which is stored up as glycogen), some vitamins and copper. It plays a vital role in digestion as it produces bile which emulsifies lipids.
The liver is involved in the synthesis of amino acids, some hormones, cholesterol and triglycerides. Just as it synthesizes some compounds, it also breaks down some others such as ammonia, insulin, bilirubin and toxins – all in a bid to keep the body system effective and sound. It is involved in metabolizing many toxins, including drugs and medications, chemicals, and natural substances. It is known to perform over 500 functions in the body.
The liver is however, prone to various forms of diseases and needs to be adequately taken care of because breakdown of this organ could be devastating to the body. Diseases that affect the liver could be inherited or caused by certain factors such as viruses, alcohol or obesity. Examples of diseases that could disrupt the functions of the liver include cancer, hepatitis, non- alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcohol-related liver disease, hemochromatosis, primary biliary cirrhosis and ascites. Any of these could result in the scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis which may eventually lead to liver failure and may require liver transplant. Liver transplant is very difficult to come by as everyone has got just one liver so there is none to spare unlike the kidney. To effectively treat any form of liver disease, it is important to visit a medical practitioner.
Liver disease could show signs and symptoms such as:
      ·         Abdominal pain and swelling
      ·         Itchy skin
      ·     Dark urine
      ·         Pale, bloody or tar-coloured stool
      ·         Chronic fatigue
      ·         Yellowish discoloration of skin and eyes
Some of these liver diseases are preventable. To prevent liver disease, it is necessary to -
     Ø     Avoid risky behaviours including use of unsterilized piercing equipment, transfusion of unscreened blood, sexual deviances etcetera  
     Ø         Take medications wisely: Be careful with herbal mixtures
     Ø        Get vaccinated
     Ø        Maintain a healthy weight
     Ø        Protect your skin from hazardous chemicals
     Ø        Take care to avoid inhaling aerosol sprays from pesticides, fumigants etcetera
     Ø        Avoid drinking excessive amount of alcohol.

       By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi



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